A move for Wayne Rooney has been tentatively discussed at executive level by Manchester City directors, but the prospect of the Abu Dhabi-owned club tabling a bid for the England striker is far from certain.
City are understood to have initially been made aware of the availability of the unsettled Rooney towards the end of the summer transfer window, but resisted a move for the Manchester United forward as they had spent months identifying and then signing their transfer targets, spending more than £100 million (Dh583m).
The opportunity to sign a world-class performer with such global appeal at a knockdown price in January or in the summer will prompt serious discussion between Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chairman, Garry Cook, the chief executive, and football administrator Brian Marwood over the next few weeks.
However, Cook would have been aware of the potential availability of Rooney earlier this month when, following the announcement of City's record losses of £121.3m, he ruled out a repeat of the club's previous transfer spending spree.
"It is safe to say that player acquisitions on the scale we have seen in recent transfer windows will no longer be required in the years ahead now that we have such a deep and competitive squad," Cook said.
Having spent over £1 billion since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed purchased the club in August 2008, City are keen to build a team with the current squad and want to avoid a large turnover of players.
They also have huge faith in the attacking options they have invested heavily in. The City coaching staff have been hugely impressed by Mario Balotelli, the young Italian who is poised to return shortly from a knee operation.
At 19, he is five years younger than Rooney and his blistering pace could make him the perfect foil for Carlos Tevez.
David Silva, the Spanish international, has also made a huge impression on the training field since signing from Valencia and the club have high hopes for him once he is fully assimilated to the demands of the Premier League. In Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Balotelli and Roque Santa Cruz, City are confident they have the firepower to mount a title challenge, but whether they feel they would need a player of Rooney's calibre to establish them as force in the Champions League is certain to be discussed at boardroom level.
Mancini's preference for playing a lone striker could also preclude a move for Rooney. He has often been deployed wide on the left by United in the past, a huge source of frustration for the player, while it is thought he will not want to cut an isolated figure in City's attack or be part of a rotation policy. Should City decide the opportunity to sign Rooney is one they cannot turn down, they would hold all the aces in any negotiations.
Aware that United turned a £100m operating profit last year into an £83.6m loss due to the debt heaped on them by the Glazers, the owners, City know United would be keen to cash in on a player who could leave as a free agent in the summer of 2012.
With expensive PIK loans, which now stand at £220m and are incurring interest at a rate of 16.25 per cent annually, to pay off the club's American owners will not allow Rooney, who signed from Everton in the summer of 2004 for £25m, to see out the remaining 18 months of his contract.
City also know that Rooney holds Tevez, the club captain, in high regard and he was hugely disappointed to see the Argentine leave United in the summer of 2009.
Tevez received a frosty reception from United's players last season in the four games between the two clubs but Rooney made a point of exchanging a warm handshake and smile before the Carling Cup match at Eastlands in January.
City are aware Rooney is keen to stay in the north west of England and that could provide them with a bargaining tool should the deal progress to contract negotiations.